In the 1980s, the Sandinista government adopted the very revolutionary fad of bestowing a name to every year. For example, there was the Year of Unity Against Agresion (Año de la Unidad en Contra de la Agresion) and the Year of the Struggle for Peace and Sovereignty (Año de la Lucha por la Paz y la Soberania). As these names were somewhat unwieldy, they were shortened to acronyms like AUCA and ALPPAS. Still, no one used the monikers in regular conversation, but the name of the year was printed on official letterhead, diplomas, seals, etc.
When Daniel Ortega retook the presidency, the practice came back. It’s latest iteration debuted on January 7, when Nicaragua’s National University-Managua Campus (UNAN-MANAGUA) declared 2019 as the “Year of Reconciliation”, according to a memo obtained by Nicaragua Investiga
The University’s proclamation echoes Rosario Murillo’s many speeches on the subject, as well as Ortega and Murillo’s (OrMu) so-called State Policy for a Culture of Peace and Reconciliation. Nevertheless, the Secretary General of the UNAN-Managua claims that the decision was taken by the University Council, as though it was their idea. That is simply not the case.
No state entity is independent in a dictatorhsip. All public entities are subordinate to the executive branch, to OrMu themselves.
Accordingly, UNAN-Managua did not make an independent decision. It simply played its part. In fact, you could say that UNAN-Managua reiterated the discourse of normalcy so favored by the dictatorship. El Carmen creates reality from whole cloth and state entities subordinated to the dictatorship reinforce the message through their actions.
I repeat: All public entities are subordinate to OrMu, from the judiciary, to the police, to all ministries, to all public universities, to the legislature. These entities operate within a “model of absolute control”, as described by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, by its Spanish acronym). According to the GIEI, the dictatorship has done away with the principle of separation of powers altogether
By subordinating the other powers of state — legislative, judiciary, and electoral — to the will of the government, a model of absolute control was installed. This model weakens institutions and exposes them to acts of corruption. Even more, the partisan character of the institutions makes it easier to use human and material resources for non-state purposes. [The resources can be used], for example, for partisan demonstrations.” (p. 47-48).
It is no secret that public employees must attend demonstrations supporting OrMu, whether they want to or not, and though this is clear misuse public resources, it is not nearly as troubling as the fact that separation of powers no longer exists in Nicaragua. Recently, Rafael Solis, a former Justice in the Nicaraguan Supreme Court, stated as much in his widely publicized resignation letter. Mr. Solis wrote that the dictatorship had run roughshod over everyone’s rights:
There are no more rights that are respected, and the inevitable consequence has been the installation and consolidation of a dictatorship with all the characteristics of an absolute monarchy, with two kings that have made all other branches of government disappear, and have left the judiciary, which I serve, reduced to its minimal expression.
The legislative branch experiences the same situation. OrMu’s legislators dominate the National Assembly, and they have used their powers to strip non-profit organizations that were critical of the regime from legal personhood. The legislature will also be instrumental in making OrMu’s Reconciliation Policy into law. In fact, OrMu legislators officially introduced a bill for the Law for a Culture of Dialogue, Reconciliation, Security, Work, and Peace (see Bill at the end of this post), which is the latest iteration the State Policy for a Culture of Peace and Reconciliation. The proposed law was officially presented to the legislature on January 10; it does not include any significant changes to the previous draft, aside from the addition of the words Dialogue, Security, and Work.
Even before the bill has been voted into law, the dictatorship has already begun implementing some of the “proposed” ideas. OrMu’s alliance with certain evangelical churches, for example, has fruitfully utilized in the staging of pseudo-events.
The term pseudo event was coined by Daniel Boorstein in 1961. Boorstein describes a phenomenon in which institutions, public or private, will stage an event for the media. In other words, Pseudo-events, unlike national tragedies, elections, or wars, don’t just happen. They are orchestrated for the sake of publicity, or, as Boorstein states:
[A pseudo-event is planted primarily (not always exclusively of the immediate purpose of being reported or reproduced. Therefore, its occurrence is arranged for the convenience of the reporting or reproducing media. Its success is measured by how widely it is reported. Time relations in it are commonly fictitious or factitious; the announcement is given out in advance “for future release” and written as if the event had occurred in the past. The question, “Is it real?” is less important than, “Is it newsworthy?”
Since OrMu controls a propaganda apparatus, the question of newsworthiness is irrelevant, and pseudo-events will be promoted regardless of their nature or importance. All that is needed is an order from above, and OrMu’s propagandists will run the copy and the images. Such is the case of this story, on El19 Digital, about a prayer meeting in the city of Somoto
The story describes a prayer meeting led by unidentified Evangelical pastors and attended by the city authorities and “the people of Somoto.” The purpose of the gathering was to “ask the Lord our God for mercy, blessings, and peace for the Nicaraguan people. The photographs included in the story show a small group, gathered in a circle as they listen to the unidentified pastor.
The meeting in Somoto was one of several carried out throughout the country, as announced by Rosario Murillo in her daily speech on January 4:
In all municipalities of the country, a great number of brothers and sisters have participated in events of blessing and anointment, first and foremost to thank God for all that he has given to us, and also to pray to the almighty to release all the promises that lie in his word for this new year, for our Nicaragua.
We have placed ourselves, through these ceremonies of blessing, into the hands of the Lord and we know that our Nicaragua is in his hands. We ask, tirelessly, for many, many blessings, that we share among us work, security, prosperity, and great victories.
In the coming weeks and months, we can expect more pseudo-events. All of them will be faithfully covered by the Ortega Propaganda Machine.
You have to create the illusion of reconciliation somehow.
READ RECONCILIATION BILLpropuesta-ley